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Savage Love


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Being one of those poor, uninsured types, I went to the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic in San Francisco to get some stuff in my throat checked out. I described my problems--weird tonsil spots and a lump in the back of my throat--to the evening's practitioner and said that I'd felt around back there with my finger. He seemed kind of shocked. (I didn't say that I learned how to suppress my gag reflex when I was 20 so that I could give better blow jobs. No, Dan, I was quiet and polite.) So he looked in my throat with a tongue depressor. He told me what the tonsil stuff was, and I was relieved to find that it was a nonproblem. Then he tried to usher me out. I said, "Well, what about this other thing? The lump in my throat?" I explained that I couldn't see it but could feel it, and I asked the practitioner to put his finger down my throat and feel around.

"Fine," he replied, "but this is the last thing I'm going to put in your mouth. Just in case you have some sort of fetish."

I have a lot of empathy for the folks who work at free clinics (they see a bunch of freaks and schizos), which is why I didn't immediately pitch a fit. But, damn it, when I go to Planned Parenthood for an exam they don't tell me that they aren't going to feel around in there with their fingers because they think I might have a fetish. They stick their fingers in my cunt and feel around to make sure nothing funny is going on.

After the practitioner felt around a little bit he said he didn't feel anything. Then he said, "You wouldn't believe how many people come in here with that fetish," and he removed his hand from my mouth. I never felt him touch the spot where the lump actually is, but I couldn't tell him to do it again because of the fetish comment. I left feeling completely marginalized.

So do you have any idea what the fetish is that he was referring to, Dan? Is it having someone gag you? Is it having someone feel around the back of your throat? Is it having, specifically, a doctor do it? And what would be the appropriate response to a comment such as the one the practitioner made? My friends have suggested that I write a letter to the clinic's management. Do you think that he was out of line making a comment like that, or do you think that he was within his rights to not do something that made him uncomfortable? The only thing I can think of that could've actually made him uncomfortable was that I was wearing my leather wrist restraints, which I always wear. Your thoughts? --Tonsil Shocked

You had me until the last line, TS. You showed up at a free clinic wearing bondage gear and you were shocked--shocked!--when the overworked, underpaid practitioner wondered if you might not be there for a cheap thrill?

Look, TS, there really is such a thing as medical fetishism (we've discussed it recently in this space), and inconsiderate medical fetishists have been known to show up in doctor's offices seeking unnecessary tests, swabs, enemas, and worse. So it's understandable that this practitioner would be wary of a woman in wrist restraints who asked him to stick a couple of fingers down her throat and "feel around." It probably didn't help that you were requesting a rather unorthodox throat exam.

"You never really stick your finger into someone's throat," says Barak Gaster, an internist at the University of Washington and Savage Love's regular go-to medical guy. "A request like that would be so out of the ordinary that I could see it throwing a doctor for a loop." Then how do doctors look for lumps in throats? If your lump can't be seen or felt during a regular external neck exam, Gaster says, "you're typically sent to an ear, nose, and throat specialist for a direct laryngoscopy, which utilizes a fiber-optic scope that lets you look into the back upper throat."

I know, I know: some folks wear wrist restraints and other leather gear to publicly affirm their BDSM lifestyle. But before the BDSM community attempts to bore me into submission with tons of angry e-mails, let me say this: Did the practitioner use the best choice of words? No. Could he have been more sensitive about the lump in TS's throat? Yes. But sensitivity is a two-way street, my kinky friends, and TS has to take some responsibility for her own actions. Just as doctors should be courteous and nonjudgmental when it comes to medically neutral issues like, say, sexual orientation or kink (and courteous and judgmental when it comes to medically harmful issues like, say, barebacking or crystal meth), patients are obligated to be courteous and respectful. As TS knows that this poor guy has to deal with a parade of "freaks and schizos" all day (what a sensitive choice of words!), she could have shown a little consideration and left her fetish gear at home. If that wasn't possible--if TS just can't be parted from her bondage gear--then at the very least she should have arrived at the doctor's office armed with a sense of humor. Instead she arrived wearing wrist restraints and left with her panties in a bunch.

I attempted to reach the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic for comment, but they were closed, and oddly enough, the outgoing message claimed they were observing a federal holiday on a day that wasn't one. Anyway, if the clinic would like to respond or the doctor involved wants to get his two cents in, please write.

"Phillip" had a long ponytail. He was smart and cool, but chicks hated his gross hair. Our girlfriends told him that women would be all over him just as soon as he lost his ponytail. He finally cut it off and, lo and behold, girls flocked to him. Now he's engaged to one of them. The problem is that nobody likes this girl. She's a selfish, controlling bitch who plans to move Phillip out of state once they're married. He's totally whipped and seems really unhappy. Our question: is it appropriate to tell him not to marry this woman? We've had friends advise against this, as it would likely be a friendship killer. But if he moves he'll basically be out of our lives, and we honestly feel like staging an intervention. We know she's not right for him, but should we tell him that? --Friends Against Controlling Bitches

Sometimes the most loving thing a friend can do is be an asshole, FACB--and it's definitely asshole time when a friend is about to marry the wrong person. If you're not willing to risk being a jerk now--even when it risks destroying a friendship--then you're not "Phillip's" true friend. And like you said, if he goes ahead and marries this woman, you're probably never going to see him again anyway. So get that intervention together ASAP.

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